India: Acts of harassment and intimidation against several members of MASUM

08/02/2019
Urgent Appeal

IND 002 / 0219 / OBS 012
Harassment
India
February 8, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) [1] about acts of harassment and intimidation by personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) against several members of MASUM in the village of Hatkhola in Chapra, Nadia district, West Bengal State, close to the border with Bangladesh.

According to the information received, on February 2, 2019, Chapra police registered a criminal case against Mr. Kirity Roy, MASUM Secretary, MASUM members Mr. Ramen Moitra, Mr. Subhrangshu Bhaduri and Mr. Sujoy Singh Roy, and the driver of a car hired by MASUM, Mr. Ganesh Sarkar, under Sections 186 (“obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions”), 323 (“punishment for voluntarily causing hurt”), 345 (“wrongful confinement of person for whose liberation writ has been issued”), 506 (“punishment for criminal intimidation”) and 509 (“word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman”) of the Indian Penal Code. The case was filed after the defenders had taken part in a meeting earlier that day with more than 150 villagers who reported acts of torture allegedly committed on a daily basis by members of the ‘A’ Company of the 81st Battalion of the BSF, which is posted at the Mahakhola Border Outpost (BOP) under the jurisdiction of the Chapra police station in Nadia district.

At around 2.15 pm, shortly after the meeting had ended, MASUM members noticed approximately 100 villagers waiting beside the road for the border gates to be opened at 3pm by the BSF so that they could return home [2]. Mr. Roy approached BSF Head Constable Mr. Jay Bhagwan, who was guarding gate number 10 of the Mahakhola BOP, and asked him to open the gate. The latter refused and asked Mr. Roy to show his identity card. Another BSF officer, Mr. Sanjay, also refused to open the gate, and both men subsequently tried to confiscate the mobile phones of the MASUM members present at the scene.

After a short period of time, the Commander of the ‘A’ Company, Mr. S N Sharma, arrived and started pushing and shoving the people who had gathered there. He told MASUM members that they had come to the village “to create disorder”, before he and another BSF Company Commander, Mr. Rajveer Singh, started taking video footage of the scene. Company Commander Mr. S N Sharma then called the Chapra police station of Nadia district and complained to the Officer-in-Charge that human rights activists were trying to instigate villagers to commit violence and unrest. Mr. Rajveer Singh subsequently wrote down the names of the four MASUM members who were present, took photographs of their identity cards, and told them that they should have asked for permission to come to the village.

Around 3pm, MASUM members were allowed to leave, after Mr. S N Sharma told them that if they were to come back again without their permission, they would “face dire consequences”. At around 4.30pm, police officers from the Chapra police station came and collected information from villagers.

Two hours later, Messrs. Kirity Roy, Ramen Moitra, Subhrangshu Bhaduri, Sujoy Singh Roy and Ganesh Sarkar were informed that Chapra police had registered a criminal case against them after BSF Commander Mr. S.N Sharma lodged a written complaint to the Chapra police station.

On February 3, 2019, Mr. Roy filed a written complaint with the Officer-in-Charge of Chapra police station to denounce the BSF’s behaviour.

The Observatory condemns the above-mentioned acts of harassment and intimidation against MASUM members, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for documenting and denouncing grave human rights violations allegedly involving members of the police forces and BSF, and recalls that several members of MASUM have already faced reprisals in the past because of their human rights activities [3].

The Observatory calls upon the Indian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, intimidation, and criminalization of all MASUM members, as well as of all human rights defenders in India.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all the members of MASUM as well as of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all the members of MASUM, as well as against all human rights defenders in India, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

iii. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in
· Mr. Khaleel Ahmad, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
· Ms. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal, India, Fax: +91-3322143528
· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 8, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] MASUM works for the protection of human rights in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and is especially engaged in documenting cases of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. MASUM is a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network.
[2] The villagers live within the Indian territory but on the other side of the border fence with Bangladesh.The villagers live within the Indian territory but on the other side of the border fence with Bangladesh.
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeals, IND 002 / 0815 / OBS 066, issued on August 14, 2015; IND 002 / 0714 / OBS 067, issued on July 30, 2014; IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.1, issued on December 24, 2014; IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.3, issued on January 8, 2016; IND 004 / 0816 / OBS 073, issued on August 11, 2016; ​IND 002 / 0617 / OBS 069, issued on June 26, 2017; ​IND 002 / 0617 / OBS 069.1, issued on November 10, 2017; IND 003 / 0219 / OBS 013, issued on February 8, 2019.

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